//Masks for Dummies pt. IX

Masks for Dummies pt. IX

By I. smiley G. Calderón | smileygcalderon@gmail.com

So, we are now over 515,000 dead here in America because of Covid. After about a year of living under the pandemic, we have had over 28.5 million fellow Americans test positive for the SARS-CoV-2 infection – about 9% of our population. The only burning question is, why in the hell do we have so many cases and so many (unnecessary) deaths? When we compare ourselves globally, we are literally leading the world in Covid deaths by an incredibly huge margin. The next worst nations are India and Brazil – and they both have only around 11 million Covid cases, with Brazil having 255,000 total deaths and India 157,000. However, at the other end of the spectrum is Australia, a developed nation with a population of 25.5 million that has had only 29,000 cases – and less than a thousand Covid-related deaths nationwide. Wow! In light of our horrible progress here in the States, these Covid figures are incredible. We are about 13 times bigger than Australia in terms of population, but we have more than 515 times the number of Covid deaths.  

Seriously, so how is Australia doing so much better?

Maybe it has something to do with their ‘drastic’ coordinated and concerted efforts to fight Covid’s rapid spread. For example, in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, wearing your mask in public became an enforceable law, punishable by a $154 fine. Could you imagine that happening here in the U.S.? (Yeah, right.) The Australian Medical Association even applauded the decision. “This is a crucial decision,” they said, “particularly as more people will be returning to work…and trains and buses become increasingly crowded.” Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of the state of New South Wales, explained quite simply, “This is an example where the New South Wales government strategy is to keep jobs, to keep community morale and wellbeing while making sure we are Covid-safe…”  

Is that too much to ask from a government? Why can’t our leadership make sure we are ‘Covid-safe’ like other sane governments?

Here in Fresno, a county of about a million residents, we have had a total of 95,548 confirmed positive Covid cases – an 8% increase from the 88,852 total from this time last month. Unfortunately, we have also seen a horrible 24% increase in Covid-related deaths from 1,173 to 1,451 – in just one month. The fact of the matter is that, to date, at least 10% of Fresno has been infected by the coronavirus. Of those infected here, the mortality rate has been about 1.5%, a little bit lower than the national average of 1.8% across the country. Clearly, these statistics tell a consistent story that doesn’t lie: For every 100 Covid-19 diagnoses, on average, 1-2 of these Americans will ultimately die because of it. Covid was the leading cause of death in the U.S. last month, with an average of 2,400 deaths per day. It’s even higher than the typical leading causes of American death, namely Heart Disease and Cancer, which usually kill 2,000 – 1,600 per day on average, respectively.

The threat is more real than ever today.

Which is why it’s a downright shame to think of the kind of disservice our government officials and leaders have provided us during this time of critical action. Instead of taking control through zero-tolerance mandates and enforcing social distancing protocols, necessary temporary lockdowns, and mandatory public mask-wearing during this deadly pandemic, our leaders have acquiesced to negative public opinion. They have given into conspiracy theories that deny and mock the seriousness or the very existence of Covid and the proven effectiveness of life-saving, nonpharmaceutical prevention measures like mask-wearing. Putting politics before lives. 

Wearing a mask for your health and the health of your community has become a glaring political statement. But it shouldn’t be. And it should have never come to this.  

Mask-wearing effectiveness is based on tested science and facts and not based on politics or pseudoscience. Unfortunately, the pandemic emerged in a critically dangerous time of extreme social distrust and dubiety, where conspiracy theories and rampant allegations of ‘fake news’ pollute the thruways of legitimate breaking news outlets and reliable public information circuits. In this type of toxic social environment, truth and fact are easily choked out.  

In this context, it’s not surprising that masks have become a contentious ‘hot topic’ after all. Their importance was easily and immediately clouded by political propaganda used to discredit rivals. Instantly, the effectiveness of facemasks was met with chants of ‘Fake News,’ ‘Alternative Facts,’ ‘Mind-Control,’ ‘Free the Face,’ ‘The CDC is Lying’ by angry, unmasked protestors, deniers, and self-proclaimed ‘patriots.’ Unfortunately for us, the dire need for face masks was born in this dense fog of social uncertainty about what is true or false in the news. Sadly, this critical and absolute need for masks emerged during a politically deceptive era of misinformation that has proven deadly. It’s the worst time for a pandemic. Because it is the disenfranchised – the misinformed and deceived – who will ultimately pay the price for our social ignorance and false information. Clearly, our Covid morbidity and mortality statistics compared to the rest of the world speak loudly for themselves and reflect this steep social price for our American ‘freedom’ to not wear a mask.

It’s tragic. But it doesn’t have to continue to be. Hope is on the horizon. Vaccinations are being mass administered. We are slowly turning the tide against Covid – so long as we don’t put our guard down until the fight is over and done with.

Stay strong and fight the good fight, friends – wear that mask!